Photo courtesy of Scott Butler.
John Marc Mullins returns as the Patriots’ top pitcher and a quality infielder.
The 2016 season was a pleasant surprise for the Homewood High School baseball team. Not because head coach Doug Gann did not expect the Patriots to be successful, but because he simply had a bevy of new faces.
“We really didn’t know what we were going to have last year,” Gann said. “It was exciting and scary at the same time, because you knew somebody was getting the opportunity and somebody was going to have to come through, but you didn’t know what it was going to be because they hadn’t really had the chance.”
The Patriots wound up playing their best baseball when it mattered most, as they knocked off Briarwood in a tiebreaker to win the area championship, before sweeping Pell City in the first round of the playoffs.
Homewood took on a strong Oxford team in the second round of the playoffs, but fell in a tight three-game series that could have gone either way.
The good thing for the 2017 campaign is many of the guys responsible for that run last year are back.
“I’m really excited about this group, because we’ve got a lot of seniors that have played a lot of baseball for us,” Gann said. “Our pitching staff, our top six to eight guys are seniors.”
Headlining that pitching staff is John Marc Mullins, who was named second team all-state in 2016 by the Alabama Sports Writers Association. Austin Spiers pitched some last year and will log significant innings this year. Luke Hindman signed with Shelton State Community College in the fall and will be counted on as well. Some other names to watch on the mound include Michael McClung, Sam Ferren, Jaedon Fleeman, Josh Katz and Jacob Fitts.
“Those are all just senior pitchers,” Gann said.
The Patriots have to find a new backstop, as Carson Griffis manned the catcher position for much of last season. Ryan Williams and Jackson Griggs each caught innings last season and will both be expected to do so again this season.
Fitts, Mullins and Spiers locked down the left side of the infield a year ago. Jake Burdeshaw and Josh Miller each graduated, leaving second base and first base as spots for players to step up and claim a starting role.
Ferren, McClung and Hindman should all see time in the outfield when they are not on the mound, with Ben Teel, Trey Sims and William Hall also expected to receive looks out there. With so many possibilities for each position, Gann said he is excited about the roster’s depth.
“This is maybe one of the deepest teams we’ll have,” he said. “Our talent level is getting better and better. We’ve got some kids that can play. We can put a lot of different combinations out there and not miss a beat.”
With so much of the current roster forced to play big roles on last season’s team, crucial moments should be nothing new when they come around.
“They’ve been in the fire, and they’ve played in playoff games,” Gann said. “They’ve been in big ball games. The good thing about it, in tight situations, they’ve been there and done that. Whether they come through or not this year remains to be seen, but it won’t be because they haven’t been in that situation.”
Gann tells his team that one of its primary goals is to “play in May,” which means to essentially advance to the quarterfinals of the state playoffs.
“If you get there, anything can happen,” he said. “If you get in the top eight, you’ve got a chance to win the whole thing.”